Monday, August 31, 2009

The Gates Of The Forest.

Author : Elie Wiesel
Genre : Historical Fiction
Rating : 8.5/10

Once in an odd while, you happen to come across a book by sheer chance. You pick it up from a pile of unfamiliar and unpromising ones, place it in the more obscure regions of your reading list, and leave it at that. You expect absolutely nothing from it. It so happens(very rarely) that when you eventually get down to reading it, the very same book sweeps you off your feet with its beauty. With its understated brilliance and poignant narrative, "The Gates Of The Forest" was that book for me.

An old, frayed copy that I picked up in the lanes of Janpath. Partly, because I like old, musty books better than squeaky new ones. And mostly because I had nothing better to do there. Though I picked it up at random, I remembered later that Wiesel was known for his autobiographical "Night". I admit, at the end of a routine marathon-read weekend, when I had completely exhausted my entire supply of tomes, was when I finally picked it up. I couldn't put it down.

Coming from a Holocaust survivor, the book attempts to draw a balance between fact, fiction and the underlying theological manifestations of the two. It tells the story of a young man, and his journey through days of war. Abandonment, isolation, doubt. The story of his physical struggle and survival, perceptual evolution, and spiritual decay. The loss of faith, and the eventual reclamation. Winding through spells of time with such eloquence, that it leaves you wanting to stop, reread, and rethink it all time and time again.

This is probably the only book I fell in love with from reading the preface itself. Would recommend it to anyone who prefers more caffeine than sugar in their coffee, metaphorically speaking.


Tangled up in blue... said...

This is fabulous! I know Wiesel gives you that feeling..I've read Night..but I never found this one..not even at all my favourite second-hand book haunts..his writing kind of makes you feel lucky and sad at the same time..lucky that you've had such an easy life..and sad, that you will never feel all those things or learn all those things except vicariously thru Wiesel's writing..I am so gonna try to dig it up from somewhere..and yes, old used books, my grandfather says, have character..they are proud becoz they have been read..the shiny new ones have yet to begin their life..:)

Have you ever read anything by Kiran Nagarkar? Just an aside really, but his writing's never the decaf variety! :) I just finished reading Cuckold and I am so mesmerised..

Rene Lacoste said...

I thought I was the only one who read the preface! Another book you'll fall in love with after reading its preface-Midnight's Children. The book never disappoints.

Sherry Wasandi said...

@ Tangled up in blue : Lucky and sad at the same time. True. Wiesel does write with such fluidity. I had come to develop a strong preference for hard-hitting, jarring pieces, thinking that they affect the reader more than anything else could. This made me change my mind.

Do read it. I was singularly impressed.

And yes, old books. Ones that have a history of their own. The occasional dog-eared pages, passages marked for reference, coffee stains and forgotten bookmarks. Something that meant something to someone.

@ Rene Lacoste : Ahh, yes! I have this OCD-like obsession that urges me to devour a book from front-cover to back-cover. Every word. Yes, even the publishing details, copyrights AND the "other books" listed at the end.

Strangely, Midnight's Children is the only book I can think of that I started but didn't finish. But I strongly suspect that had more to do with the slightly disturbing sequence of events that occurred around the time I started reading it. I believe I haven't picked it up again for the same reason.

I might. Someday.

Ravindra Merthi said...

agreed though i am not familiar with these kind-a books but first few lines are true.
One of the simple post i find in this blog:)
I should say -> 'Diction'